Nuno Espirito Santo is set to give Wolves youngsters Will Norris and Max Kilman their Premier League chance against either Fulham or Liverpool.
The Wolves head coach says he wants to give everyone in his small squad game time before the end of the season. Goalkeeper Norris, 25, has already played in both cups last season, making seven first-team appearances in all. Left-sided defender Kilman, 21, is yet to make his senior debut but has been an unused substitute five times this season and has been integrated into the first-team squad over several months, travelling on the recent training camp in Marbella.
Given the importance of the last-day trip to Anfield, when Liverpool could be crowned champions, their chance looks more likely to come in Saturday’s visit of relegated Fulham.
“I would like to finish the season with all the players having minutes in the Premier League. I would really like that,” said Nuno.
“Max has been involved, he has talent, let’s prepare them. He’s on the list. Every player on the list can be involved in the game.
“Will’s having a big hand because he is with us at all the games and the way he has been, he does fantastic training sessions. It’s about everything. It’s difficult for me to explain.
“We have three goalkeepers, but only one plays. Last season Will had the chance to play in the Carabao Cup and even the FA Cup. Things have changed this season, but his behaviour hasn’t changed.
“The way he has committed himself to the work has not changed. The way he comes here on a daily basis has not changed.
“It’s even improved because they know each other better. We don’t know when we can give Will a chance. Hopefully I will try.”
Ruo Patricio has kept eight clean sheets this season, a record for Wolves in the Premier League. Nuno believes the Portugal international has been helped by the ‘small family within a family’ – the other goalkeepers – John Ruddy, who has played all the FA Cup ties this term, and Norris.
“The goalkeepers are a very tight group,” he added. “It’s not only about the job Rui has done, it’s about John, Will, Rui Barbosa (goalkeeping coach). It’s a small family inside a family.
“I think, speaking as a former goalkeeper, the performance of a goalkeeper is based on the work they do together as a three – the way the work and the way they support each other.
“That’s what helps a player, and in this case a goalkeeper to do good performances. It’s the strength of this small group.”
As for if Kilman’s opportunity was imminent, Nuno said: “Of course.
“Max is 100 per cent integrated into the squad. He’s improving. We try an individual approach with him, trying to get him better as an athlete first of all. That includes a lot of aspects, such as nutrition and gym work.
“And then we integrate him into a full training session with the first team, because playing and training with us will improve his level.
“He’s gradually improving and he will have his chance, for sure. He will have his chance.”
Norris previously played 93 times for Cambridge United, from where he joined Wolves in July 2017, while he had 26 games on loan for Braintree.
Kilman played 25 times for England in futsal – small-sided football played mainly indoors – before signing for Wolves last summer from non-league Maidenhead United.
And of his futsal background makes him unique, Nuno said: “I just see him as a very good football player, a centre-half with quality.
“He’s big, aggressive. He has to improve like all young players, but we’re really, really happy with Max.”
Kilman was signed from National League side Maidenhead United in August and made national headlines, having won 25 England caps at futsal, a five-a-side game played with a smaller ball.
The Londoner played three times in the Checkatrade Trophy earlier in the season after 54 outings for Maidenhead.
He has been an unused substitute in the FA Cup tie at Shrewsbury, and in the Premier League games at Fulham and Chelsea and at home to West Ham prior to being included for the trip to Turf Moor.
Nuno believes having a smaller squad has made every player feel more included.
“Have we got depth? No. But strength? Yes,” he said. “We made a decision very clearly in January, we reduced a lot of aspects and it made us take that decision.
“It was the right one; it allows every player to be involved and have minutes. We want to keep growing and the best way is to let the players be involved in games.
“When you go back to the idea of having 16 players, we have to have enough versatility in the players to allow the same player to play different positions at the same time.”